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Mariners key on pitching after Clement

Mariners key on pitching after Clement

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SEATTLE -- The Mariners felt so good about where they found their first-round choice, they started the second day of the First-Year Player Draft by selecting a player from the same place -- the University of Southern California.

Catcher Jeff Clement led off the Mariners' 16 selections on Tuesday, and right-handed pitcher Brett Bannister was the first Seattle selection on Wednesday to start the final 32 rounds of the 50-round draft.

But the 47th-round draft choice had some special significance as well. Seattle selected Kent State senior first baseman Andrew Hargrove -- the 6-foot-1, 250-pound son of Mariners manager Mike Hargrove.

"He's a big kid with power and is following in some pretty good steps," Mariners Scouting Director Bob Fontaine said. "I think he'll [sign] and go out and play."

The name Bannister also should be familiar to longtime Mariners fans.

Brett, 22, is the son of former Major League pitcher, Floyd Bannister, the first player drafted in 1976 by the Astros and later an All-Star with the Mariners. The senior Bannister, a left-hander out of Arizona State, had a 15-year MLB career with six organizations, including the Mariners (1979-82). He was selected to the American League All-Star team in 1982 when he went 12-13 and had a 3.43 ERA with Seattle.

Brett Bannister, sidelined in both 2003 and '04 because of an elbow injury that required "Tommy John" surgery, has a 4-3 record and 4.98 ERA in 13 appearances (11 starts) for the Trojans this season. He has 36 strikeouts and 17 walks in 47 innings going into this weekend's best-of-three NCAA Regional series against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.

Fontaine had said going into the draft to expect a lot of pitchers to be selected, especially on the second day, and he wasn't kidding. Bannister was the first of several pitchers the Mariners selected on Wednesday, a complete turnaround from a year ago when there were only six pitchers drafted in the first 27 rounds.

Nine of the first 13 picks on Wednesday were pitchers, meaning 17 of the first 29 draft selections this year were pitchers, including eight left-handers. Of those 17, all but four played college this past season.

Still undetermined, though, is how many of them actually will sign contracts.

The Mariners signed their first 10 draft picks last year. Michael Saunders, the ninth selection who attended Tallahassee Community College this season, signed last month. Overall, 23 of the 48 players in the Class of '04 signed, but one of the final 17 selections -- left-handed pitcher Harold Williams (38th round).

"I think we will sign more players this year, maybe closer to 28, although we haven't even started with negotiations," Fontaine said.

Asked about contract talks with Clement, Fontaine said they wouldn't start until the end of USC's season.

'Until he's finished playing we're not going to give him anything to think about except winning the College World Series."

Among Wednesday's draft picks was catcher Ross Kwan of Seattle Prep, taken in the 36th round.

Kwan was rated in the Top 100 prospects in the nation and the best position player in the state of Washington by Prospects Plus, and as the No. 11 catcher in the nation by TeamOneBaseball.com. He has signed a letter of intent to attend Tulane University.

"He has a wonderful opportunity to play for Tulane, but we're going to talk to him," Fontaine said. "He has played for our scout team and we know him well."

When it was all said and done, the Mariners selected 16 pitchers on Wednesday, four catchers, six infielders (five first basemen) and six outfielders.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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